Scott Simon: You had vowed in a couple of interviews that you weren’t going to do television again anytime soon after the X-Files. What changed your mind about Bleak House?
GA: Well it has been a long time, and I actually keep forgetting how long it has been since we stopped shooting the series, but I absolutely fell in love with the script, with Andrew Davies’ adaptation, and I hadn’t read Bleak House yet and actually agreed to do the project before reading the novel and had the most wonderful time working to put together costumes and deciding the wig, and it was just an extraordinary experience.
SS: Help us set the story up, because Bleak House, interestingly, I think it’s safe to say, is one of the most admired novels, or stories—it was actually written initially in newspaper installments—but not the one that, at least on this side of the pond, a lot of Americans have read, as opposed to, let’s say, something like Oliver Twist or a Tale of Two Cities.
GA: Sure. Well, there are lots of different stories that are intermingling and interweaving within the body of the novel, and the main story is about a legal case involving the Jarndyce family, and—
SS: Bleak House is their house.
GA: Bleak House is their house, and the character that I play is Lady Dedlock, who has a stake in the case.
SS: We have a clip: Timothy West, playing Lady Dedlock’s husband, having a conversation at the window.
[clip: LD at the window, Bored, Bored, Bored]
SS: You sound really bored.
GA: [laughs] You know, she’s—Lady Dedlock is such a fascinating, tragic character, you get the sense in the novel, and in the series, that she was quite frivolous as a young woman, and she falls in love with a young soldier and ‘lays’ with him for one night, and becomes pregnant. After her recovery, she is proposed to by Sir Leicester Dedlock, played by Timothy West, and despite the face that she does not love him at the time, she agrees, but never reveals the fact that she had a child and that she did have a love before they were married. So, she carries that secret with her, and she has become cold, but she almost can’t help herself. She’s holding everything so tightly within herself, and she almost appears like if she fell over, she’d break into a thousand pieces.
SS: We want to play another clip. Charles Dance plays an attorney who suspects that Lady Dedlock has this secret.
[clip: LD: “Is this law-hand?” Charles Dance: “I don’t know.” LD Faints]
SS: You faint, right?
GA: Yes [laughs]
SS: Victorian women were always fainting, weren’t they?
GA: It was the corsets, and—
SS: How do you play a character who much of the outside world finds impenetrable, but you know, and the audience has to know, that what she’s exhibiting is not boredom so much as kind of cauterized pain and feeling.
GA: What makes a good character is conflict, and one can reveal a lot simply by the way one holds oneself, the way one moves one’s mouth, one’s eyes, twitches one’s nose in the slightest ways. I have to imagine it also has to do with, you know, the rich world that Dickens that sets up in his pages about particular characters, and the way they stand, the way they dress, the way they hold their hands, and so it is—it’s almost like an immediate template for an actor to work with, and it all adds to this different world that is incredibly faithful to what Dickens was trying to express, I think, through his tabloid, serial writing.
SS: Ms. Anderson, thank you very much.
GA: Thank you.
Transcript courtesy of Bellefleur.